A Lightweight Bike Touring Packing List

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Bike touring is a fantastic way to experience the glory of the outdoors. You get plenty of exercise while also moving quickly from place to place and seeing plenty along the way. Bike touring has become incredibly popular in recent years.

Two touring bikes parked at the side of a long straight road headed toward Allenheim

To get the most out of the experience and avoid periods of misery, you must make sure you pack the necessary equipment. This is where our lightweight bike touring packing list will come in handy. This list includes all the gear you’ll need to ensure you enjoy your next bike tour.

Or course, if we’ve forgotten anything or if you have your own secret must-carry item, let us know in the comments. We’d love to add more good ideas to the list.

What to pack for a bike tour

Tools and parts

When you hit the road (or trail) to go bike touring, you need to have the right tools and parts. The most important bicycle touring gear that you should include are:

Bike pump: There are going to be situations where you need to refill your bike tires during the trip. Bring a lightweight bike pump and make sure your tires have been optimally inflated for the trip.

Closeup of a bike pump in place on a valve
Flat or soft tires are all but inevitable on a long trip.

Multi-tools: Multi-tools are incredibly valuable during a bike touring trip. Think about bringing an Allen key set along with a screwdriver set.

Adjustable wrench: Bring a few adjustable wrenches that can help you address repair or maintenance issues that develop during the trip.

Repair kit: If there is a problem with your bike, it’s great to be able to repair it while on the go. This means bringing replacement inner tubes as well as bike tire puncture tools.

Finally, remember to bring a rag for keeping your bike clean, and spare fittings for parts that could break during the trip. That way, if anything happens to the bike, you can quickly and efficiently address it, keeping your trip on track.

Stowage

Pannier racks: Choosing a pannier rack for your bike isn’t fun, but it’s important. You should have both a front and rear pannier rack. This will help you transport all your other equipment appropriately.

Pannier bags: Ideally, go with waterproof pannier bags that will keep your equipment dry if it rains.

A cyclist digging into her pannier bags after parking her bike
A good waterproof set of pannier bags will comprise the bulk of your luggage when you’re bike touring. (© Robert Thomson | Creative Commons)

Small frame bag: Invest in a bag you can attach to the frame of your bike. This can be used to hold helpful items you might want to access while riding.

Handlebar bag: A handlebar bag can hold anything you might need on short notice while riding. Make it waterproof if you can, to protect your equipment from harm.

Frame bottle cages: You need to stay properly hydrated while touring. This is where frame bottle cages are helpful. Most touring cyclists have at least two attached to their frame.

Dry bags: Bring a couple of extra dry bags to hold items that might need to be protected while riding.

Bungee cords: You can never have too many bungee cords when you go bike touring! Don’t neglect them.

Zipties: Zipties are right up there with bungee cords as items you’ll be so glad to have. Be sure to pack them with you.

Clothing

When you’re bike touring, clothing equals comfort. Here are our recommendations for clothing items everyone should pack:

Cycle touring shoes: The feet and legs are going to do most of the work, so invest in a solid pair of cycling shoes that will grip the pedals while allowing your feet to breathe. Your shoes should keep your feet from overheating and keep blisters at bay.

Louis Garneau - Men's Cobalt Lace Bike Shoes, Black, US (10), EU (44)

Cycling shorts: Breathability and comfort are key. Depending on the weather, both shorts and pants might be necessary.

Sports shorts: It’s a good idea to take a few pairs, particularly for longer trips.

Cycling socks: Socks are really important for preventing the development of blisters. Multiple pairs of cycling socks are a good idea.

Thermal skin top and bottom: If you’re planning on biking a great distance, particularly in colder weather, bring thermal clothes.

Cycling jerseys: Colorful cycling jerseys are important for making sure other people, particularly drivers, can spot you on the road.

Loose base layers: Comfortable base layers provide comfort both on and off the bike.

Jacket: A waterproof jacket will shield you from the elements while an insulated jacket will also help you stay warm while riding.

Gloves: You might need a thick pair and a thin pair, depending on the climate. Gloves can help with hand numbness, they’ll improve your grip on the handlebars when you sweat, and prevent your hands from freezing with the wind chill.

Warm hat: A snug hat under your helmet can reduce the amount of heat that escapes from your head in cold weather.

Underwear: Try to find underwear that is designed to prevent chafing while you ride.

Scarf or neck gaiter: Protect the skin of the neck from sunburn and windburn by investing in a scarf or neck gaiter for protection.

These are just a few of the most important clothing items you should consider for bike touring. Don’t forget some casual layers, like traditional shirts, shorts, socks, and underwear. An extra hat is also helpful. Hopefully you won’t be spending every minute on your bike!

By planning ahead, you can be ready for anything the elements might throw your way.

Bike touring accessories

Accessories to bring along on your bike tour include:

Sunglasses: One of the most commonly overlooked items, and underrated as a safety item. Sunglasses can make a tremendous difference to your vision, reducing the glare from wet pavement, water, and ice that might be present. If a bee flies into your eyes at 15 miles per hour, they can also be the difference between a harmless deflection and a dangerous spill.

Phone: Of course, don’t forget your smartphone! In places where you won’t have service, switch it over to “airplane mode” to protect the battery. You might also want to invest in a battery pack case, so you don’t have to pull out the charger so often or always be hunting for an electrical outlet.

Phone mount and holder: A waterproof phone mount and holder can protect your smartphone properly while you ride. An adjustable phone mount can help you swivel your phone to take pictures, while also allowing you to see important incoming calls and texts.

GUB Bicycle & Motorcycle Phone Mount, Aluminum Alloy Bike Phone Holder with 360° Rotation for iPhone 11 Pro Max X XR Xs 7s 8 Plus, Samsung S20 S7/S6/Note10/9/8/4 GPS Mount 4 to 6.5 Inch (Black)

Water bottles: Bring multiple water bottles on your trip. You can stow a couple on the frame and a couple of extras in your bags.

Bike lock: When you’re out on the road, your bike is your most valuable investment. Always tour with a solid bike lock.

Headlamp: Also known as a headtorch, this is critical for cutting through darkness, shade, and storms that might arise. Pair it with your bike lights and you’ll be easy to notice.

Sound system: If you want to enjoy some music while you ride, there are Bluetooth speakers that will attach to your bike and connect to your phone. Or review our list of the best headphones for cycling.

Laptop: If you think you’ll need a laptop during your trip, bring a protective case for it as well.

Camping and cooking gear

Assuming you won’t be eating out every night, you’ll need equipment to prepare food. And of course, you need a good night’s sleep when you’re putting in long days in the saddle. Here’s what you’ll need for cooking and camping:

Tent: Find something that’s lightweight and not too much of a headache to pitch at the campsite when you’re tired, hungry and darkness is falling. If you’re sharing a tent with a traveling partner(s), you can take turns carrying it.

A bike next to a tent in a dark field on a starry night
Invest in a good tent for those sleeps at the side of the road. (© Grand Canyon National Park | Creative Commons)

Bedding: For sleeping, a roll-up inflatable camping mat works well. You should also have a synthetic sleeping bag that’s appropriate for the climate in which you’ll be traveling.

Hammock: A hammock is great both for sleeping and for relaxing after a long day of touring. Find one that’s light, comfortable and easy to deploy between two trees at a campsite.

Microfiber towel: These towels are ideal for drying off after a long day of touring or after a swim. A microfiber towel also dries really quickly after it’s used.

String lights: String lights are light and can quickly and easily provide a comfortable source of light at your campsite.

Cutlery: In addition to your standard fork, knife and spoon, you should bring a chopping knife with a sleeve, a wooden spoon, and a cutting board.

Dishtowel: Also called a tea towel, you can use it to dry your cooking equipment, silverware, and cups after a meal.

Gas and stove: Test your stove and make sure it’s working properly before you pack it for your trip. Know the longevity of your gas canister and how much you’ve got left. Pack spares as necessary.

AOTU Portable Camping Stoves Backpacking Stove with Piezo Ignition ,Stable Support Wind-Resistance Camp Stove for Outdoor Camping Hiking Cooking

A single burner with a supply of gas is all you need if you want to keep it light.

Cups: A steel camping mug is durable, safe, and easy to clean. Also, it makes your morning coffee taste better.

Plates and bowls: Bring a few unbreakable plates and bowls but don’t go overboard. Every bit of weight counts.

Lightweight pots and pans: The same is true of the pots and pans. Try to make sure they are lightweight and can fit together in your pack to save space.

Can opener: Forgetting your can opener will lead to an unpleasant surprise down the road, and a compromised diet until you’re able to replace it.

Tupperware: If you have leftovers, store them in a reliable set of Tupperware and bring them along to snack on during your ride.

Finally, don’t forget to bring some herbs and spices as well to complete your camping meals. Tea and coffee can be a nice treat in both the morning and the evening.

Medical equipment

Finally, you want to be prepared for any injuries or medical concerns that arise during the trip. The most important medical equipment to bring includes:

Hand sanitizer: As the great COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all, washing your hands and sanitizing are among the best ways to ensure you don’t get sick during your trip.

Toothbrush and toothpaste: A basic hygiene step, but easy to overlook!

First aid kit: Include bandages and alcohol wipes.

A first aid kit opened on a counter
A basic lightweight first aid kit.

Sunscreen: Sunscreen is critical when bike touring. A bad sunburn can bring your trip to a halt quickly. Aim for SPF 50 or higher, even if you think you have a dark complexion.

Bug spray: Prevent those annoying mosquito bites in camp.

Nail clippers and tweezers: These can play an important role in ensuring you remain comfortable during your trip.

In addition, you should bring some extra cash, a spare ID card, some duct tape, a lighter, and a compass. All of this can go a long way toward getting you out of those little jams that occasionally pop up, and ensuring you have an enjoyable trip.

Bike touring FAQs

What is the difference between bike touring and bikepacking?

Many people like to go both bike touring and bikepacking. The biggest difference is where they go on these adventures. Bicycle touring typically covers paved roads, while bikepacking focuses more on off-road adventures and harder-to-access destinations. It’s like hiking into the backcountry, but on a bike. Make sure you choose the right bike for your trip.

A bike packed with supplies stopped on a gravel road leading to snowy mountains
Bikepacking takes you into the more scenic backcountry, on rugged terrain.

What kind of bicycle do you need for bike touring?

This is a personal decision and everyone has their preferences. The most popular type of bike for bicycle touring is called, unsurprisingly, a touring bike. Touring bikes come in many shapes and forms, so you should be able to find one that meets your needs. Factors to consider include the riding position, durability of the frame, and the ability of the bike to transport all the necessary equipment. Consider the tires as well, as they will impact both the comfort of the ride and the likelihood of flats.

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